She likes watching TV soap operas and shops at the supermarket like ordinary Brazilians. He swears he is marrying her for love, not money.
But any pretense that Athina Roussel Onassis and Alvaro Affonso de Miranda are just a normal couple will be cast aside on Saturday when the 20-year-old sole heiress to the Onassis fortune and the 32-year-old Brazilian equestrian champion marry in a lavish wedding in Sao Paulo.
Details of the event are one of the worst kept secrets among Sao Paulo’s social elite. Even though catering and other contractors have been sworn to silence, gossip magazines such as Caras and Istoe Gente are giddy with excitement.
Around 750 guests are expected to attend the wedding in the lush gardens of the Maria Luisa and Oscar Americano Foundation, an art museum in the posh Morumbi district.
The billionairess bride will wear Valentino — the same as Jacqueline Kennedy wore in 1968 when she married Athina’s grandfather, the late Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The dress cost at least $70,000, Caras said. Her hair-do and make-up for the big day will cost $1,200 according to Veja.
Istoe said 1,000 bottles of Veuve Cliquot champagne were ready for popping.
In a city where millions of people live in poverty and violent crime is rife, chances of any of the hoi-polloi getting close for a glimpse are minimal.
Some 400 security men will be on duty. Guests will meet at a secret location then be ferried to the grounds in limousines, passing through two control points, the magazines said.
The service will be ecumenical as she is Greek Orthodox and he is Roman Catholic.
What present can a guest bring for a girl who can afford anything? Donations to charity, please.
“We did this to show people there is a better place for their money,” Miranda said in a comment to Reuters.
Riding to romance
The couple met in Belgium in 2002 and romance blossomed over their shared passion for horses.
French-born Athina had been dubbed the “poor little rich girl.” When Athina was just 3, her mother Christina died at age 37 in 1988 in Buenos Aires after a history of drug abuse.
She won a battle with her father, Thierry Roussel, for control of a personal inheritance of $800 million and property. His attendance at the wedding has not been confirmed.
Miranda, known as Doda, is the son of industrialist Ricardo Miranda. One of Brazil’s top equestrians, he has won two bronze Olympic medals. He has a six year old daughter, Viviane, from a previous marriage to a model.
“He has a comfortable life but he is not a millionaire,” said Epoca magazine.
Although his motives for wooing one of the world’s richest women were questioned by some, including his ex-wife, friends and family say they are now convinced it is true love.
They live in a penthouse overlooking Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo’s equivalent to Central Park. They spend much of their time at the Hipica Paulista riding club.
“They train a lot, compete frequently, and go out little — they like to watch DVDs at home,” Veja said.
She has learned to speak Portuguese and when she goes shopping waits her turn in line to pay, it noted approvingly.
She enjoys Brazilian-style barbecues and Japanese food.
“From time to time she can’t resist a little cake with ice cream although she has a constant battle with weight,” it said.
As for their future plans, Athina will turn 21 in January and faces a legal tussle for control of the billion-dollar Onassis Foundation charity, whose trustees have challenged her links to Greece.
Doda is considering competing for Greece in the next Olympics and Athina has also said she would like to represent Greece. They plan to return to Belgium for training.
One thing has remained secret — whether the pair has signed a prenuptial agreement.